Should I Stay in or Can I Get Out of Here? Movement, Failure, and Kafka’s Bargain

Menachem Feuer in Berfrois:

ScreenHunter_1532 Dec. 03 16.19Franz Kafka loved to stay on the move. He traveled and kept a travel diary. From his travel diaries, we also learn that Kafka went to spas; he liked to exercise and move his body. Like many European Jews in his generation, he wanted to be healthy and happy. But when it came to his life, his faith, and his future, Kafka didn’t feel like he was making any progress.

Kafka felt he was failing to move in the right direction. Sometimes he felt he wasn’t moving at all. In order to understand whether or how he could move, Kafka turned the question of movement into parable. By way of his fiction, he encountered the possibilities of movement. Kafka wondered whether fiction would enable him to move or if it suspended movement? Was Kafka, as he says in one journal entry, “stuck to this spot,” or could fiction, as we see in a few of his parables and fictions, help him to transcend his location and go… elsewhere?

These parable-based meditations on movement brought Kafka face to face with failure and the possibility of madness. They prompted him to reflect and decide on whether or not to make a “bargain,” as he says, with madness. This bargain necessarily affected his movement and prompted Kafka to, as he says in his journals, “cultivate” failure.

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